In this 2019 Chinese science fiction epic, humanity is forced to look for another home in the universe, as the sun prematurely enters its red giant phase. Luckily, they have a destination in mind: Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to our current position. Unluckily, that journey is going to take 2, 500 years and involve using planetary thrusters to turn the Earth itself into one gigantic spacecraft.
The biggest issue with this ‘Earth’ lies in these thrusters. According to John Elliot, senior engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, each thruster engine would have to continuously produce around 1.1 × 1016 newtons of thrust. For comparison, the F-1 engine (the most powerful single nozzle rocket engine ever developed) only produces around 6.7 × 105 newtons of thrust. To make matters worse, the engines’ fuel comes from mining the earth, so by the time we actually arrive in the Alpha Centauri system, 95% of the Earth’s mass would be gone.
However, if we assume that humanity somehow manages to overcome the aforementioned problems, we would still be faced with a multitude of catastrophic changes caused by, well, wandering into space. The most obvious one is that the Earth’s surface will become uninhabitably cold as we leave our sun behind. This is portrayed quite accurately in the movie, with everyone living in underground cities. A less straight-forward but equally deadly change is due to the planetary thrusters halting Earth’s rotation. This will cause the oceans to “splash over everything” in giant tsunamis, widespread earthquakes, and massive tectonic movements. In short- the reason why the population dropped to 3.6 billion.
Okay, so with everything said, there still is one more question.
Wouldn’t it have been easier for humanity to just leave Earth behind, like they do in every other science fiction movie?
It is with this in mind, that I give Earth a solid B.
B for bruh.
Because seeing Earth casually float past Jupiter really is a bruh moment.
Rome, E. (2019, May 09). Could ‘The Wandering Earth’ Actually Happen? A NASA Engineer Explains How. Retrieved December 23, 2020, from https://www.inverse.com/article/54103-could-the-wandering-earth-movie-plot-actually-happen